Attorney: 14-year-old ‘rape bait’ victim reaches settlement with school district
(CNN) — A woman who said she was persuaded by a middle school teacher’s aide to act as bait to catch an accused sexual predator when she was 14 has reached a settlement with school officials and the district, the woman’s attorney says.
The girl, who in previous interviews asked CNN to call her “Jaden,” was 14 years old and an eighth-grader at Sparkman Middle School when she said she was sodomized by a fellow student in a school bathroom.
The settlement was approved by the Madison County School Board Monday night and is the final chapter in a “six-year-long ordeal,” Jaden’s attorney, Eric Artrip, said.
Artrip couldn’t reveal specific details of the settlement, but told CNN Jaden is “very happy with the outcome.”
According to court documents, Jaden’s ordeal began on January 22, 2010, when a 16-year-old student who had propositioned her before asked Jaden to meet him in the bathroom for sex.
Jaden usually ignored him, but on that day, she told a teacher’s aide, June Ann Simpson, in hopes she could make the harassment stop.
Simpson told Sparkman Middle School Principal Ronnie Blair about the allegations. According to a 2012 deposition, Blair said the boy would have to be proven guilty to be punished. In response, Simpson crafted a plan to prove the claims, using Jaden as bait.
The idea was to have the girl agree to meet the boy in a bathroom. Simpson would watch surveillance video, and teachers would intervene before anything happened.
Jaden and Simpson claim they went to the office of vice principal Jeanne Dunaway, and when Simpson told Dunaway about the plan, she said, Dunaway did not respond. During a deposition, Dunaway denied the conversation happened.
Simpson stayed behind to watch surveillance monitors, hoping to catch the two walking into the bathroom. She never saw them.
According to Jaden’s written statement after the incident, the boy made a last-minute change to go into a different bathroom.
Once there, Jaden says she tried to stall the boy, even telling him she’d changed her mind and didn’t want to do it, hoping a teacher would rush in. The boy sodomized her, Jaden said.
June Ann Simpson resigned shortly after the incident. Blair and Teresa Terrell kept their jobs as principal and assistant principal at Sparkman. Dunaway was eventually promoted to principal at nearby Madison County Elementary School, where she served for two years. Her contract wasn’t renewed for the 2015-2016 school year, but she remains employed by the district as a “collaborative specialist.”
The alleged attacker was never charged.
Jaden’s father filed a lawsuit in 2010 against Madison County Schools and its officials. A district court judge tossed out the federal claims — that the school district violated Title IX and that Simpson and school administrators deprived Jaden of her civil rights.
Jaden’s legal team appealed in May 2015 and won the right to a jury trial.
In a 75-page decision, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Sparkman Middle School administrators Blair, Terrell and Dunaway showed “deliberate indifference” to Jaden’s allegations, failing to “adequately supervise” her alleged attacker, who they knew had a “history of sexual and violent misconduct.”
The case was headed back to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama to be tried before a jury. However, Artrip said, Jaden agreed to dismiss her claims against the school board and school officials “in exchange or an amount of money which is subject to a confidentiality agreement.”
“Our client is happy that this . . . is over,” Artrip said.
“She is also very happy . . . with the attention that this case has received and hopes that this case will make girls safer in schools.”